Neil McGowan

Neil McGowan

39 years old currently residing in Scotland

1.How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, with the occasional hiatus. However, last year I made a conscious decision to devote more time to writing.

2.What or who was your inspiration to write?

I remember reading a book when I was very young and naively thinking that I could do much better. I read lots, mainly Stephen King, James Herbert and other authors of a similar vein, and they inspired me to try and produce my own versions of the things they were doing. By the time I realized how hard it was – that making it look easy was a sign of a good writer, I was hooked.

3.Which genre do you like to read? Why?

I’ll read most genres, although I struggle with romance – it just doesn’t work for me. My preferred reading tends to be horror, sci-fi, or fantasy. Even better, if it’s a mix of some or all of them. I also read quite a lot of crime fiction – I think it can stray into the territory of horror in some cases, when it’s well done. A good action thriller would also grab my interest.

4.Do you write this genre or others? Why?

I do tend to write mainly horror. This is not always a conscious choice – I usually start with an idea for a story and at some point in the writing I’ll realize I’m telling a horror story. Even better is when I can mix and match genres. My latest novel Nanobite was my effort at writing a vampire novel that wasn’t another Twilight clone; I managed to weave a good deal of science fiction into it and I think it shows in the book how much I enjoyed it- I think it’s a fast, racy read; it was written in the same way.

5.Who are your favorite authors?

Stephen King, Stuart MacBride, Tana French, Caro Ramsay, Terry Pratchett. Only one horror writer in there, I know, but the others all write first-rate material. I enjoy reading them first and foremost because they tell a good story, but also because, as a writer, it can be instructive to see some of the tricks of the trade in use.

6.How do you create your characters?

I’m lucky in that in my day job as an IT Trainer, I get to meet a wide variety of people. It fascinates me to watch how people interact and speak; and usually I’ll create composites of several people that become characters. Over the course of the first draft, the good ones seem to take on a life of their own and develop themselves; the bad ones fall by the wayside and (hopefully) get cut on the rewrite.

7.Do you give them names before you develop them?

Almost always – I will change a name occasionally during the course of writing but most of the time I stick with my initial choices. I see the names as part of the definition of the character, and when I’m working out problems in the plot, I’ll often imagine conversations with the characters in order to try and resolve them. Having a name for a character makes them seem more real, more in focus.

8.How do you choose your characters names?

Usually, an appropriate name will suggest itself to me whilst I’m still developing the character. A character’s age and backstory will normally have some bearing on this, but I’ve been known to pop to baby-naming websites in order to pick a name for a particularly difficult character.

9.Do you edit as you write or after you get your manuscript written?

A bit of both, really. I normally start each writing session by reviewing what I wrote the previous day. I pick up the most glaring errors and inconsistencies here, but I don’t spend hours on it – it’s more important for me to get the words down on paper. After finishing the first draft, I’ll leave it for anywhere from a week to six weeks – the longer the piece, the longer I try to leave it. I find that this period away from it means you come to it with fresh eyes, and that’s when you can pick up the bigger stuff such as continuity errors and the like. I usually rewrite a further two drafts before I’m happy; at that point, I start the nitty gritty of combing through for typos and grammatical errors. After a couple of passes, I get the feedback of beta readers and perform one last rewrite (if necessary) based on their comments.

I follow this process for short stories as well as novels; it’s a process that seems to work well for me.

10.Do you have an agent, publisher, or selr-publish? If you’ve used more than one which was most profitable?

Self-publish! I love the creative freedom it gives me, from the content of the novel to cover design. Having said that, I do submit fairly regularly to magazines (and I’ve got a stack of rejection slips to show for it); selling my first story (for the princely sum of $3, no less!) left me with a grin roughly a mile wide for most of a day.

As far as which is the most profitable – I’m about even, so far (although I’ve been submitting to magazines longer and more often – I usually write at least one short story a month). It depends on how much time you can devote to promoting your books, and how good at it you are. The vast majority of new writers won’t make a living from it (there are an awful lot of books out there to compete with), but with perseverance you can gain a steady trickle of sales.

11.What advice have you received to help you and what advice would you give a new writer?

Don’t do it for the money! Do it for the love of writing. I still get a kick of excitement every time I sit down to write, especially if the story is going well.

Read lots, both in and out of the genre you write in, and write just as much. Study the mechanics of writing, such as grammar and style, and practice, practice, practice. Never throw anything away – it’s an eye-opener looking at something you wrote a year or two ago and critiquing it – it’s a good way to measure how you’re developing as a writer.

Most importantly, if you want to write, then write – be it on a laptop or longhand in a notebook. Get those words down on paper.


neil mcgowan book
Don’t Drink the Water:

neil mcgowan 2
The Surgeon:

Crude Oil (free short story):


Twitter: @neilthecyclist



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s